tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC January 11, 2014 2:00am-2:31am PST
sleeping bear. let's play "hardball". good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start with this. the big store of governor christie two-hour defense yesterday was what he didn't say. why did the governor of a state, clearly with his eyes on the white house, fail to ask anyone anywhere, any time what the hell was going on at the george washington bridge. when traffic stopped for hours, day after day after day after day, when the democrats in trenton were raising hell, when
the media was jumping all over the story, when his to top guys at the port authority were forced to resign. when all of this was on the front page and raging in the nightly news, this big bear of a politician, this guy who dominates the scene not once asked what the hell was happening. not only that, he openly and sarcastically refused to ask any questions. here he is on december 19th, three months in, still refusing to act, ask or think, to do anything that might alert him publicly to what his people had been up to. >> if you want to chase him around, chase him around. that's your business. but i'm not going to run around doing an independent investigation. i'm not a prosecutor. i'm a governor. >> this is my question and this is my theory, the whole matter. i think governor chris christie didn't think anything wrong had
been done from september on. when the traffic jam started up through december and he gave his staff a one-hour window to come clean and went out and said they were clean, you have to wonder by this big take charge guy had so little interest in knowing what he had to take charge of. the only other explanation is he didn't care about the biggest mess of his political career, even as he minced his way towards the country's highest office. that's an explanation i can't buy. i can buy the explanation that this very political governor, very ambitious governor made his business not to know, not to let people see him knowing what businesses people had gotten into on his behalf. steve will be with us in a moment. the national investigative correspondent joins us from trenton. big picture question. knowing all you know now, what
is chris christie, the governor of that state, has to worried about? what is he worrying about? is somebody going to go public? are they going to get immunity? >> excellent questions. we have hundreds of pages of new documents. >> i want to know what he has to worry about. >> he has to worry about really strong clues that emerged yesterday that david wildstein who took the fifth amendment rather than testify, has got some bombshells to unload. at the very end of that testimony, this got overlooked yesterday. the democratic chairman was outlining all the unanswered questions that the committee still has about what christie knew and when his people knew it. wildstein's lawyer said, well, if my client gets immunity from
authorities you'll get the answers to your questions. that's a very subtle hint we have a story to tell here but we need immunity to tell it first. is wildstein the john dean of this affair? one other clue that got overlooked yesterday. those documents that have been turned over, the e-mails, incredibly damaging e-mails, they have all those deletions because the subpoena only called for documents responsive to the traffic closures, to the issue in question. one of the things he did include is references to a meeting proposed between christie and david sampson's, his appointee as chairman of the port authority. it said time for traffic
problems in ft. lee. why did he include those? that's the question i'm asking. that's the the question they're asking. that's something that nobody is really focused on. >> great reporting from trenton. answer my question question at the beginning, steve. the governor of new jersey is very lawyered up. it's in his dna how to protect himself. the other day in his press conference he said i only have two reports. my counsel and his chief of staff. in other words, i never talked to bridgett kelly. he separated himself completely
from any possible krpblt by the nature of the way he described the situation. my question is the dog that doesn't bark. why for four months didn't he ever inquire about what his people were up to. >> that's a logical theory that this was willful ignorance on his part. >> i'm borrowing it from your analysis the other day because you used that very term. i thought it was so on the mark. >> i think there is a specific reason why if you accept that theory and you play it out, there is a specific reason why he might have been confident in that strategy, and that has to do with sort of the internal mechanics of new jersey politics. the current state legislative session is expiring next tuesday. with the expiration of that legislative session, expires the legislature's subpoena authority. it has been subpoenas from the legislature, subpoenas from the state assembly that have kept this story alive these past few months. the incoming assembly speaker next tuesday is the product of
an alliance between chris christie and a group of pro chris christie democrats in the legislature. the expectation before this week, before all the bombshells this week was that that speaker was not going to renew the subpoena authority for the state legislature. >> but now? >> well, now there is no choice. that's going to happen. >> the national democratic party were to assassinate those people if they didn't do it. >> more than that, it's not the state assembly anymore. now you from the u.s. attorney sniffing around, the commerce committee. this has gotten bigger in the last few days. >> let's go to what michael isikoff pointed out, the john dean. i grew up during watergate. it follows a certain pattern. nixon would try to set it up that first thing i knew about this, i heard from john dean, and then i operate in this certain way, like christie yesterday, all picking a date like december something when i quizzed my staff and i moved forward and said i'm clean until then and after them. once i asked them once if they had anything to do with this, i'm clean when they said no. he sets that up. my question is why would any of these people, starting with
wildstein, going to baroni, going to his campaign manager stepien, and certainly going to bridget kelly, who has now been made the villain in this piece, why wouldn't they want to come out at some point and say, you know what? i'm an office holder. i work for a guy. my mission here is to carry out his purposes. and one of them is are political, and i did what i did. i wasn't out robbing gas stations for money. i was doing this for him. >> well, the question here, you take these people individually, but let's start with bridget kelly, because bridget kelly is the one he really singled out yesterday. he called her a liar five or ten times during that press conference. i think the logical conclusion you draw from watching chris christie doing that yesterday, this is a guy who is confident there is nothing that is going to come out that is going to contradict him. there is no further documentation that is going to come out. >> meaning he never talked to her in the office all these months about this trouble, he never -- >> well, there is -- >> my point, he probably didn't.
he made a point of never winking in her direction, take care, you'll get through this. any sign of collaboration. >> that is one theory, and that is entirely plausible. however, there is a history with this governor. just three years ago in this state when he was the governor, he fired his education commissioner, and he held a press conference which is very similar to the one he held yesterday. the education commissioner's name was bret schundler. he screwed up the race to the top application. chris christie said the number one rule of this administration is you don't lie to the governor. now bret schundler admitted that he and his teamed a screwed up the race to the top application, admitted he deserved to go, but did not like being called a liar. what happened a week later? bret schundler had documents, he had e-mails, he has records. he could prove that when chris christie called him a liar, he had not been a liar. chris christie and his administration had known bret schundler had talked to them. and i cannot help but think of them right now. because chris christie confidently got up there three years ago with all the cameras rolling and called him a liar, even though there was evidence out there that came back to
haunt there. there is a precedent. >> now, you know wildstein a bit, and i heard your story you knee him indirectly because he ran your website. i'm watching this guy. i'm really try to empathize with people in trouble politically. i'm looking at this guy. he obviously has a lot going on in his head. he is a smart guy. he knows what is going on. he knows all the forces at work right now, and he is playing his time right now. he is waiting, waiting out the prosecutors, waiting out somebody is going to give him immunity so he will not face any criminal charges. because if he doesn't face any criminal charges, he might mai be a lot less likely to face any civil action, which could be very expensive, even if he doesn't have deep pockets. so he wants a deal. if he gets a deal, isn't christie done? >> well, what michael isikoff said is really interesting. and the most interesting part of that for me this weekend, i should say yes, i worked for a website owned by david wildstein. i haven't had any contact with him since this began. but what i will say is the most interesting thing to me this week is on tuesday night, chris christie and the republicans named bill stepien, that had
been chris christie's campaign manager, saying bill stepien is going to be the next chairman in the party. on wednesday morning all these stories about the e-mails break. so if there had been, if wildstein was still on the team with christie, there would have been a heads up. there would have been some way of getting the news to christie's team that hey, this is coming. bill stepien and others are going to be implicate in stuff that is going to be in the press wednesday morning. and there is no way that chris christie and his team ever would have announced bill stepien as the chairman of the republican party on tuesday night if they knew that was going to happen wednesday morning that tells me the idea here that wildstein and there might be some coordination behind the scenes between the governor's office and him. that's not going on. because if there was -- >> that's my theory too. >> right. >> he has cut him off. coming up, a rare point of
agreement between democrats and republicans. they both are loving this christie ordeal. a lot of them, even on the republican side, just don't like the guy. he's a little too independent i think. also, since they won't support christie, many republicans are doing the next best thing and attacking obama. the congressman couldn't risk saying benghazi, what about benghazi. anything can do in either proportion or reality. but they are out there vomiting their latest. christie has a reputation of being a bully. christie said it's untrue ask his reputation is unearned. why governor christie can expect more sleepless nights. this is "hardball", the place for politics. because you can't beat zero heartburn. woo hoo! [ male announcer ] prilosec otc is the number one doctor recommended frequent heartburn medicine for 8 straight years. one pill each morning. 24 hours. zero heartburn.
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christie story the last few days, like fellow republicans defending him. where or they? the head of the republican governors association has had a glaring lack of republican governors rallying around him, and that's christie. he has had some support. michael grimm yesterday came on "hardball" to back him up. rudy giuliani is also out there for him. and surprisingly, governor nikki haley from down in south carolina. but those are the small exceptions. most republicans have been holding back, not giving an inch of help to this guy. and some have taken the opportunity to actually attack him. catch this. here is lindsey graham. he told nbc news kasie hunt yesterday the scandal, quote, reinforces a narrative that is troublesome about the guy. he is kind of a bully. you know, being candid and forthright and speaking truth to power is one narrative, but the other narrative is, you know, he is a transactional politician. he rewards his friends and he punishes his enemies. later, senator graham backtracked a bit saying he was impressed by christie's press conference yesterday. he handled it as well as he
could. that's certainly minimal. meanwhile, rand paul, potential rival for the 2016 nomination against christie joked about the scandal when he was asked during a white house walkout yesterday. >> i don't know. who e-mailed who and who works for whom. i have been in traffic before. i know how angry i am when i'm in traffic. i'm always wondering who did this to me. >> he didn't even bother to stop. but christie has never shied away from bashing his fellow republicans. is he suffering the consequences of that now? what goes around comes around. david gregory, the moderator of "meet the press" on sunday's on nbc, and david axelrod is a former adviser to president obama and msnbc senior analyst. david, i want to start with you. as a democrat, it seems to me that the democrats are enjoying this for the reasons i would suspect is that they suspect he might be the toughest republican candidate for president in a general election. he gets knocked off, then they only have to face at best maybe scott walker, if jeb bush gets back in the game, of course, but probably face a right-winger who they think they can beat. >> you know, for all the reasons that very few republicans stood
up, christie has some broader appeal as a candidate. he is somewhat independent of the kind of most strident right-wing voices in the party. just the day before he got into trouble signed a dream act in new jersey. these kinds of things enrage the base of the party. but they make him a more appealing candidate nationally. so yes, he was an attractive and may well yet be, chris. i'm not in the camp that says the guy is done. i think if any of these threads get pulled as you suggest and expose him as having lied at this press conference, then he is done. >> no, i don't think he will be caught lying. i think it's a whole truth more than a lie. i don't accuse him of lying at all, never have. what i do think is he never explained why he never showed any curiosity from september all the way through december about what seemed to have been the work of his staff and his
appointees at the port authority. that's what to me is the dog that hasn't barked here. >> i think that that is a serious question, but i'm not sure that will disqualify him as a candidate. but if one of those people who is involved in scheme says as a matter of fact, yes, the governor did know about it, that's obviously game, set, and match. >> that's wildstein. let's go to the republican side. it's a little more nuanced, david. it seems to me my hunch is the guy plays outside the pocket. he is a scrambler. he breaks all the rules. most politicians play inside the pocket, they play it carefully, they work with their own side. here is a guy who went out and worked with president obama right at the end of the campaign last year for president. and did his own thing. now they seem to not like that. >> well that. >> also i think some people feel like he was a little too help to feel the president at a critical time. and that's the romney campaign. but i think it goes a little bit beyond that as well. some of it is about ideology. but i think most of it is about personality.
and i think that there is a big ideological fight in the republican party right now. but i think the big test for christie still remains personality, leadership, temperament. and it's why this cultural question that you raised, chris matters a lot. these are people who have worked for him for a long time. and yet there was the cryptic nature of these e-mails. it just had to be cued up. so is this just a rogue operation that took root underneath him without him knowing, without him sort of sending cues that this would be okay, that this would be acceptable, this is how we do things. i think that's the thing that ultimately becomes a leadership question. >> i have to follow up with that, because i think that's so to the point here, david axelrod. the fact that as chris jansing said on our air this morning, that comment, or that cueing up as you put it, david gregory, which was it's time for some traffic problems in ft. lee, that was in the middle of a conversation. that wasn't a guess what, i got this idea to screw this guy by
screwing up the traffic, somehow cutting out the two lanes by the four lanes, knowing about the geography and all that stuff. somebody had a larger conversation about this beforehand, and this was like d-day, h hour. we're going to do it now, but we've been planning to do it for a while. that's clearly the implication of that e-mail. >> well, it feels that way. up next, the christie bridge scandal has been big for late night.
back to "hardball." time for the sideshow. while few have come to chris christie's defense, stephen colbert announced last night that he is standing by the embattled governor, perhaps all the way to 2016. >> now i realize he is the kind of leader i can get behind, the kind who says it's my way or i shut down your highway.
christie is a true conservative. he is committed to proving the core conservative value that government is the problem, even if he has to create those problems himself. i can already see his 2016 bumper sticker. christie, bringing america together or i will [ bleep ] you over. best of all, best of all, his team will make sure you have plenty of time to read those bumper stickers. >> but those bridgegate issues right now may prove especially damaging to a guy like christie since it reinforces the very image he sought to downplay, that of a schoolyard bully. as jon stewart pointed out last night, sometimes your reputation really does precede you. >> this is not the tone that i've set over the last four years in this building.
it's not the environment i've worked so hard to achieve. >> intimidation, vengeance, vitriol, that's not the tone? >> damn, man, i'm governor. could you just shut up for a second? >> no, no, that's not it. hold on. try that one. >> did i say on topic? are you stupid? >> no, not yet. just haven't found it yet. ♪ >> okay? that's what it is. ♪ i think i finally figured out the tone he set, fu sharp. ♪ fu! >> well, we found a few more feisty moments that "the daily show" didn't get to. here are some of chris christie's other highlights from the past three years. >> you know, some may go down tonight, but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart. the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn't get involved.
well, then what the hell are we paying you for? >> you don't send your children to public schools. you send them to private schools. >> thank you very few. i'm sorry for the idiot over there. >> that's it for "hardball". have -- have you seen it? yes, i have seen it, and it looks -- you gotta look better. ladies, breathe. cascade kitchen counselor here. it's not your silverware. it's likely your detergent. see, over time, cascade platinum's triple cleaning formula delivers brilliant shine finish gel can't beat. it even helps keep your dishwasher sparkling. find something, mother? no. [ counselor ] cascade platinum is cascade's best.
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